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Another Scale of Architecture, Toyota City, Japan

Like Sejima before him Ishigami pushes the boundaries of buildable form

Junya Ishigami came to international attention with delicate wall drawings and microcosmic greenhouses at the Japanese Pavilion for the 2008 Venice Biennale (AR October 2008), but in Japan he’d launched his career a year or so earlier with a glazed trapezium for a university workshop in Kanagawa Prefecture (AR September 2008) and a cubic cloud hovering in a vertical hall of the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo.

This year Ishigami won the Golden Lion for best solo project in the main exhibition - an event directed by his former boss, Kazuyo Sejima - with Architecture as Air: Study for Château la Coste, an almost invisible structure sabotaged one night by a stray cat and thus now part of Biennale lore.

In Toyota City, west of Tokyo, Another Scale of Architecture takes risks to deliver on the promise of its title. There in the sleekly corporate museum designed by Yoshio Taniguchi, Ishigami colonises a half-dozen ‘white cube’ galleries. Some spaces house a multitude of models: a low circular table with many disparate metal objects; rows of more trapeze-thin towers rising as spectral stalagmites from the floor. There’s a reiteration of the carbon fibre structure lionised in Venice, in fact a 1:1 model for a pavilion in the South of France.

The floor of one gallery is almost entirely covered by a low model that at first resembles stringy carpet but is revealed to represent a vast greenhouse-like shed with a subtly undulating ground plane (this is rumoured to be a refectory, also for Kanagawa). The most remarkable work inhabits another double-height gallery. This space is occupied by hovering planes of white fabric, sheets stacked in the air like the ghost of modernist architecture and connected by a matrix or cage of barely visible supports.

Like Sejima before him, Ishigami pushes the boundaries of buildable form, form tested through exhibitions such as these. Not 100 per cent complete by opening day, the diaphanous, orthogonal cloud of white fabric at Toyota City could soon be a proposal for a pavilion, a large building, or perhaps even an entire city. Miniaturisation and the domestication of nature are of course historic themes in Japanese design culture. Alongside these, Ishigami also pursues a particular utopian strand. In future decades he may be seen to have continued a modern Japanese tradition of speculation into this new millennium.

Another Scale of Architecture

Where: Toyota Municiple Museum of Art, Toyota City, Japan

When: Until 26 December 2010

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